Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Guest Post - Kirsty Logan - Let's Talk About S-E-X (Writing, that is)

NOTE: Kirsty submitted this piece to FundsforWriters, and I enjoyed it. But knowing the spam filters out there, I worried about the newsletter getting through. So I asked her to guest blog for me here, so you guys would enjoy this piece as much as I did. This is a genre that sells well, especially on ebooks, but Kirsty tells you how to take a different spin with the subject - in nonfiction articles.   ~HOPE


Let's Talk About S-E-X

By Kirsty Logan

We all do it. We all think about it. We might even talk about it. But have you ever written about it? I'm not talking about erotic fiction (though there is a steady, well-paying market for that too); I'm talking about personal essays and articles about sex. You don't need to be an expert – or sexpert – and you don't need to be swinging from the chandeliers in lacy scraps from Victoria's Secret to have something to say. You probably know a lot more about sex than you think you do, and that knowledge can produce some truly original articles and introduce you to some brand new markets.

But I Can't Write About You-Know-What!

Sex writing does not have to be arousing or titillating. Yes, you're writing about sex – but sex is not always sexy. That little word 's-e-x' encompasses so much: body image, gender roles, sex education (and miseducation), religious and moral beliefs, upbringing, issues of trust and confidence, monogamy vs. casual relationships, sex after children, sex after marriage, sex after divorce, sex after infidelity, sex after menopause… I could go on. We all have a sexual life to some extent, and there are depths to mine. A lack of sexual history can lead to fascinating stories too – whether that's through personal choice, religious or moral beliefs, or circumstances beyond your control. Sex is more than just this-goes-there; there is a wealth of subject matter out there.

But My Family Will Know What I've Been Up To!

Perhaps you're not comfortable with friends and family reading about your sexuality. There's no shame in consensual experiences between happy, healthy adults, and I've found that loved ones are far more understanding than you'd expect. But if you're still uncomfortable, there's the option of a pen name or of writing anonymously (note that you will have to let the editor know your legal name for your payment). If you don't want to confess, you don't have to write about yourself. You could interview or profile people in your community: it would be fascinating to learn about the sexual attitudes and experiences of religious figures, performance artists, outreach workers, or friends – and it can be anonymous, if they prefer.

But I Don't Know How To Write That!

The most important thing is to be honest. Don't gloss over details or tone down your feelings. Don't close the door on reality – delve deeper and tell the reader what really happened. When was the last time you read something truly honest about sex? People are often too embarrassed to say what their experiences were really like because they fear being judged, but writing an honest account is both empowering and enlightening – and you're passing that feeling on to your readers too.

Don't forget to be original, both in terms of subject matter and descriptions. You might think that your experiences are very ordinary, but being brutally honest about your own life is truly authentic. Writing about sex is far more than cheap titillation; it's honesty and truth, and that is beautiful.

Don't be shy. Falling back on euphemisms or slang words for body parts is a sure sign that you're tiptoing around the truth. There's no need to be clinical with your language either; find words you're comfortable using, and stick to them.

Most important of all: be a great writer! There are badly-written sex stories out there – just as there are badly-written crochet articles or interviews with nurses. Writing about sex does not mean that you can afford to be lazy or predictable. The competition is just as tough as in any other market, and you need to shine.


• Nerve ( Pays $50-100.

• Filthy Gorgeous Things ( Pays $100, but only for commissioned articles so be sure to query.

• The Smart Set ( Pay negotiable, $50+

• Salon ( $100+

• Best Sex Writing (Anthology publish annually by Cleis Press) Pays $100. Submissions have not yet opened for the 2011 edition, but will be available at

Kirsty Logan writes, edits, teaches, and reviews books in Glasgow, Scotland. Her nonfiction sex writing appears at The Rumpus and Filthy Gorgeous Things, and her erotic fiction is published in Best Women's Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, and Girl Crush. She is currently working on her first novel, thanks to a grant from from the Scottish Book Trust. Get in touch at


Ellie Garratt said...

Intersting post. I must admit I've never written about sex and feel no inclination to do so. But one day I might!

Thank you Kirsty.

Tami said...

Great post. S-E-X writing is a great market because it's something that everyone is interested in, and I think that people want more of...yes, I meant that both ways. Thanks for the post, perhaps I'll explore a little more.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Cheers for the post.

I've written seven novels (still unpublished) and all bar the first had sex scenes in them. Each were as versatile as the characters and the subject matters. (Some were YA, others adult. Some sci-fi, some literary drama).

Sex is a part of life and I think if you're writing fiction, particularly about characters coming together and/or in love, then it would be unrealistic and a huge loss of dramatic opportunity not to include sex in the writing.

Characters reveal themselves through their actions, never more so than in the act of lovemaking. There is a wealth of material to explore and I admire a writer who has the courage to explore sex without making it like some cheap Zalman King faux erotic scene with candle lighting and wispy red robes.

Great post.